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Archive for July, 2008

Dear Readers, This post was originally published in 2007. Since then, Oxford World’s Classics has reissued A Memoir of Jane Austen and Other Family Recollections by J.E. Austen-Leigh with a list of illustrations, a family tree, an introduction by Kathryn Sutherland, and additional family recollections by Henry Austen, Anna Lefroy, and Caroline Austen. Letters are included in the appendix of this rich book, which is filled with the most interesting details about Jane’s life and thoughts:

She certainly took a kind of parental interest in the beings whom she had created, and did not dismiss them from her thoughts when she had finished her last chapter. We have seen, in one of her letters, her personal affection for Darcy and Elizabeth; and when sending a copy of ‘Emma’ to a friend whose daughter had been lately born, she wrote thus: ‘I trust you will be as glad to see my “Emma,” as I shall be to see your Jemima.’ She was very fond of Emma, but did not reckon on her being a general favourite; for, when commencing that work, she said, ‘I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.’ She would, if asked, tell us many little particulars about the subsequent career of some of her people. In this traditionary way we p. 158learned that Miss Steele never succeeded in catching the Doctor; that Kitty Bennet was satisfactorily married to a clergyman near Pemberley, while Mary obtained nothing higher than one of her uncle Philip’s clerks, and was content to be considered a star in the society of Meriton; that the ‘considerable sum’ given by Mrs. Norris to William Price was one pound; that Mr. Woodhouse survived his daughter’s marriage, and kept her and Mr. Knightley from settling at Donwell, about two years; and that the letters placed by Frank Churchill before Jane Fairfax, which she swept away unread, contained the word ‘pardon.’ Of the good people in ‘Northanger Abbey’ and ‘Persuasion’ we know nothing more than what is written: for before those works were published their author had been taken away from us, and all such amusing communications had ceased for ever.


During her life and shortly after her death, Jane Austen’s novels were not popularly known. Oh, she had her admirers, most notably the Prince Regent, to whom she dedicated Emma, and a few other distinguished personages, such as Lord Macaulay, Lord Byron’s wife, Ann, and writers Philip Sheridan and Robert Southey. But her works languished in relative obscurity until her nephew James Edward Austen-Leigh wrote A Memoir of Jane Austen in 1869. His book was well so well received that he quickly published a second edition in 1871 that expanded on the first one.

In the memoir, Edward’s recollections and those of his family, including Jane’s nieces and nephews, all of whom remembered their aunt fondly, made Jane accessible to a fresh, new audience. Along with these family recollections, are letters from Jane to various people outside her family. The one below is written to a Mr. J. S. Clarke, librarian, Carlton House in 1815, two years before her death:

Dec. 11. ‘Dear Sir,—My “Emma” is now so near publication that I feel it right to assure you of my not having forgotten your kind recommendation of an early copy for Carlton House, and that I have Mr. Murray’s promise of its being sent to His Royal Highness, under cover to you, three days previous to the work being really out. I must make use of this opportunity to thank you, dear Sir, for the very high praise you bestow on my other novels. I am too vain to wish to convince you that you have praised them beyond their merits. My greatest anxiety at present is that this fourth work should not disgrace what was good in the others. But on this point I will do myself the justice to declare that, whatever may be my wishes for its success, I am strongly haunted with the idea that to those readers who have preferred “Pride and Prejudice” it will appear inferior in wit, and to those who have preferred “Mansfield Park” inferior in good sense. Such as it is, however, I hope you will do me the favour of accepting a copy. Mr. Murray will have directions for sending one. I am quite honoured by your thinking me capable of drawing such a clergyman as you gave the sketch of in your note of Nov. 16th. But I assure you I am not. The comic part of the character I might be equal to, but not the good, the enthusiastic, the literary. Such a man’s conversation must at times be on subjects of science and philosophy, of which I know nothing; or at least be occasionally abundant in quotations and allusions which a woman who, like me, knows only her own mother tongue, and has read little in that, would be totally without the power of giving. A classical education, or at any rate a very extensive acquaintance with English literature, ancient and modern, appears to me quite indispensable for the person who would do any justice to your clergyman; and I think I may boast myself to be, with all possible vanity, the most unlearned and uninformed female who ever dared to be an authoress. ‘Believe me, dear Sir, ‘Your obliged and faithful humbl Sert. ‘Jane Austen.’

As a result of Edward’s memoirs, the public embraced Jane Austen’s novels. Josephine Ross writes on page 3 in Jane Austen: A Companion, “Jane Austen had won the ‘admiration, even to fanaticism, of innumerable readers'; and in the years that followed, amid a surge of articles, essays, critical studies and reprints of her novels, the unmarried daughter of a Georgian vicar, who had feared to be made ‘a wild beast’ by her contemporaries, was to become one of the best-known authors in the English language.”

You can read Edward Austen-Leigh’s memoirs by clicking on this link to the Gutenberg Project. However, the Oxford’s World’s Classics edition will give you a more detailed view of Jane through her family’s memoirs and letters.

For additional information, you can also trace the origins of Jane Austen’s popularity in this link. Click here.

  • Image of Jane Austen’s portrait: Oxford World’s Classics book cover, which is available at Amazon.com in the UK and the U.S.

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A particularly nasty trojan horse infected my main computer when I was searching for information on the film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, 1971. I will have to wipe my hard drive clean and reinstall. Thankfully, I have an external hard drive, so most of my files are already backed up. This nasty invasion comes at a particularly busy period in my work life, and thus I might not be able to write new posts for the time being. Except for one post, which is nearly completed, I shall have to resurrect some old posts that have not seen the light of day in a while. BTW, why do these cyber thugs invent spyware that disables pcs? Isn’t this counter productive to their intent, which is to get you to view their sites?

Thank you for your patience and support!  Vic

Image: Scarfe, New Yorker

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Edwardian Promenade, one of my favorite blogs, awarded me with an Excellent Blog Award. Thank you for the honor! This truly made my day, especially since other sites that have been chosen are fabulous and outstanding. You have placed me among august company. There are so many worthy blogs and I am having a hard time choosing. My criteria for passing this award on are that the blog must be well-written and researched; offer topics of historical, literary, cultural, or cinematic interest; and look visually luscious. Many of the blogs I would have nominated have already received this award, so here goes …

(Inhaling deeply) I would like to nominate the following ten, er, twelve sites.

  1. Austenprose: Laurel Ann, my blog partner on Jane Austen Today, always meticulously researches her topics and fits the appropriate image to the subject matter. You can tell that visual proportions count, and that she puts a great deal of thought and effort into her posts.
  2. Paris Parfait: If you have never seen this blog, hurry and click on the link. My one wish is to have enough money to visit Paris any time I like. Paris Parfait assuages those yearnings.
  3. Silver Screen Surroundings: This is Linda Merrill’s latest blog. I also visit ::Surroundings::, her interior design blog, but these days I am more drawn to her analysis of movie sets.
  4. 18th Century Blog: This blog’s visual feel is that of an 18th century confectioner’s shop. Most of the posts are written in English, but not all.
  5. The Period Movie Review: You will find movies reviewed within their centuries. The stills are gorgeous and I agree with the ratings more often than not.
  6. Emma Adaptations: Kali includes anything and everything about Jane Austen’s Emma. Her blog is a one-stop shop for all things Ms. Woodhouse, and I am amazed at the depth and scope of information on just this one novel.
  7. Ripple Effects: Arti’s interests turn to literature, movies, art, and other assorted topics that also interest me. I never know what I’ll find when I visit.
  8. Molland’s: This site is not a blog, strictly speaking, but it contains the excellent Austen.blog, and other worthy links about Jane Austen, her life, novels, and letters that draw me back over and over.
  9. Paris Breakfasts: The blogger of this site combines her watercolours of Parisian food and objects with photos of that astounding city. I am amazed at the scope of paintings and variety of photos of Paris foods, such as in this link. This site is definitely memorable!
  10. Ellen and Jim Have a Blog Too: Ellen is so knowledgeable and so productive. I am always amazed at the thoughts, connections, and ideas that come from Professor Moody’ mind. Her blog has a simple design, but you will spend hours reading and rereading her posts. She connects her topics to literature, history, art, philosophy, poetry, and film. Connectedness – isn’t that what blogging is all about?
  11. My eleventh blog (I know I went over the limit, but I could not resist) is Georgianna’s Gossip Guide. Click on the link and you will see why. These two art historians are wickedly witty and delightful.
  12. Bygone Beauty. I promise that this is my last nomination. Stopping by Kalianne’s world is like taking a trip down memory lane.

Thank you Edwardian Promenade for nominating me. I enjoyed passing this award on.

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100 Books Meme

The People’s Republic of Mortimer published “A Whole New Way With Memes.” Like Alix, the blog’s author, I am not tagging anybody. If you like to participate, just copy and paste this list of books into your own blog, and follow the instructions below, or add up the books you’ve read.

This list was compiled in the U.K. by the BBC. The average adult has read only 6 of the books on the list. I’ve read 59. (62)

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you love.
4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or were forced to read at school and hated.
5) Reprint this list in your own blog. (This list in no way represents the top 100 books. It’s missing the Iliad and Odyssey by Homer. For shame.)

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
4 The Harry Potter Series – JK Rowling
5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6 The Bible
7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare
15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19 The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch – George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34 Emma – Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding
50 Atonement – Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel
52 Dune – Frank Herbert
53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville
71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
72 Dracula – Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses – James Joyce
76 The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal – Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession – AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

As you can see, I’ve struck out no books, as they are all readable – eventually.

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When one thinks of a fashionably attired Regency lady, one also thinks of the lovely fan she most likely carried. These graceful objects were first used for cooling, but during the 19th century they became an indispensable fashion accessory. Flirtations were carried on with fans, which hid blushing cheeks or communicated a specific message. (Click on ‘The Language of the Fan’ post below)

In the eighteenth century, wealthy Georgian ladies, especially English ones, waved [fans] at masquerade balls, and wore them as a fashion accessory with almost every outfit that they owned. There were daytime fans, white satin bridal fans and even mourning fans painted with grisaille, i.e. black, white and grey. Classical fans, brought from Italy, replaced the luscious rococo of the French. As well as drawing attention to beautiful and perfectly manicured hands, these items played a big part in delicate flirtations. In fact, a whole ‘language of the fan’ had developed in England in Tudor times which became especially popular for middle and upper-class Victorian women who were courting. A folded fan placed against a lady’s chin told a gentleman that she found him attractive, for example, while snapping a fan shut was a curt dismissal! No wonder that the sixteenth century English writer, Joseph Addison, stated: “Men have the sword, women have the fan and the fan is probably as effective a weapon!”- Life in Italy, Handheld Fans

The following passage was written in the U.S. in mid-nineteenth century America. It describes an oppressively hot day in church in which so many ladies were fanning themselves that they created a significant breeze for others. “One old lady must have been thinking of a dancing-tune to which her feet kept time in the days of her youth, as her fan kept time with a regular hop, skip and jump, not at all like any psalm-tune I ever heard.” The author goes on to describe fans made of red and yellow, or resembling a great palm-leaf, or made of a peacock’s tail or turkey feathers, their delicate  ivory or sandalwood sticks and guards creating clicking sounds.

Those two young ladies who sit where side glances cross very conveniently from the crimson-cushioned pew occupied by a single gentleman, have consecrated theirs to the most effectual display of their ruby lips and laughing dimples, and I am kind enough to hope it will not be “all in vain,” and, as I have hinted, really think fans are often put to a worse use. No insignificant thing is the little flutterer, whatever may be its form or fashion – how many smiles and frowns and titters it hides, to say nothing of the blushes that take shelter behind its graceful folds. Many an ague fit have they given me; yet on the whole, I am not sure that I would banish them; were they the authors of ten times as much mischief, for I think it would cause a flutter among ladies, that would be more deleterious.

Into what a consternation they would be thrown if suddenly deprived of this relief in all embarrassments; and it is a curious fact, that in all heathen as well as all Christian nations, it is a favorite shield of the gentle sex. In all histories of queens and courts and festivals, the fan is conspicuous, whether it be among the Princes of Christendom, in India or China, or in the Islands of the seas. The true reason is that it is so graceful an appendage, and so kind a helpmeet in a moment of timidity or an hour of idleness.” -Minnie Myrtle, The Ladies and Their Fans, New York Times, June 30, 1854

Top Image from: Hagley Magazine: Fan Exhibit

Diagram of fan: The Fan Museum

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Planning a banquet for the Prince of Wales (later the Prince Regent) took an enormous amount of time, money, and effort. The following is a partial list of food Lady Fetherstonhaugh of Uppark estimated would serve one hundred guests in 1784:

Kitchen at Uppark

2 Bucks, a Welsh sheep, a doz. Ducks, – 4 Hams, dozens of pigeons, and Rabbits, Flitches of Bacon, Lobsters and Prawns; a Turtle of 120 lbs; 166 lbs. of Butter, 376 Eggs, 67 Chickens; 23 Pints of Cream, 30 lbs. of Coffee, 10 lbs. of Fine Tea; and three lbs. of common tea.

41 Port; 7 Brandy; 1 1/2 Hold of strong Beer; while Musicks cost £26 5s 0d and another chef to assist Moget cost £25; another 2 Bucks added cost £11; 2 more sheep cost only £2 10s, and another 2 carp £1 10s 0d. – National Trust, Investigating the !8th Century. p 26

One can only surmise that too many royal visits could deplete even the wealthiest family coffers! In January 1817, the Prince Regent asked Antonin Careme, the famed French chef, to cook a meal at Brighton:

On 18 January 1817, George invited the greatest (and most expensive) chef in the world, Marie-Antoine Carême, to prepare a unique and extravagant dinner in honour of the visiting Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia. Carême had previously cooked for Napoleon, the Rothschilds and the Tsar. But on that cold night in 1817, Carême outdid all his previous achievements – creating 127 dishes. The evening’s pièce de résistance was a 4ft-high Turkish mosque constructed entirely out of marzipan, although there were pigeon pies, saddles of lamb and a hundred other delicacies. So pleasurable was the feast that the Prince Regent exclaimed: “It is wonderful to be back in Brighton where I am truly loved.” – Blow Out! History’s 10 Greatest Banquets

Read more about food, entertainment, and the master of Uppark in the following links:

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When I took a peek at Marie-Antoinette’s Gossip Guide I was reminded of the eclectic surprise that awaited me on the grounds of Versailles during a visit a couple of years ago – Marie-Antoinette’s English garden and  Petit Hameau. This picturesque,  thatched-roofed village, inspired by Hubert Robert’s paintings, was created by palace architect Richard Mique in 1783 – 1785. One approaches the tiny hamlet through a naturalized English style landscape filled with follies and grottoes, and that opens up to a Grand Lac in the center of an enchanting faux village.

‘Everyone had heard of her private retreat at Trianon, and of the little hamlet she was having her architect construct there. It seemed a perverse extravagance, for the Queen to create a village for her own amusement while in many parts of France real peasants in real villages were in dire want. In her make-believe village stood eight small thatch-roofed cottages, their plaster walls cleverly painted with cracks to make them look weathered, their gardens full of vegetables and fruit trees. Nearby were barns, a poultry yard, and a mill. A farmer named Valy was brought in to live in the farmhouse and look after the livestock. Cows were pastured in a small field, and milked into porcelain tubs in an exquisite little dairy. The Queen had her own cows, named Brunette and Blanchette, and white goats and white lambs, rabbits and cooing pigeons and clucking hens. There was a note of pathos at the miniature hamlet, amid the abundant charm; it represented an almost childlike vision of a simpler, happier world. But the Queen’s critics saw nothing of this. To them the village was one more in a long list of frivolous purchases. They called it “Little Vienna,” and made fun of Antoinette indulging in her rustic pleasures.’ (C Erickson, To the scaffold the life of Marie Antoinette Robson Books 2000 p. 163)

Marie liked to dress simply in this setting, pretending to live a rustic lifestyle.


The Temple of Love, a folly inspired by antiquity, sits on an artificial island.

One passes a rustic grotto as one walks towards the small hamlet.


A violent storm in 1999 felled scores of ancient trees planted in Marie-Antoinette’s day, including a tulip tree from my home state Virginia, but many like this beautiful specimen survived.


Twelve cottages once encircled the lake. I find it simply amazing that during the French Revolution the citizenry did not overrun these symbols of a rich woman’s fantasy of the simple life and raze it, as it sat quite near the Village of Versailles, which is now part of the outskirts of Paris.


Marie Antoinette had her own tiny “play” house, which was connected to the billiard room by a wooden gallery. She and her female friends liked to dress as shepherdesses or milk maids while they occupied this pretend world. Flower pots were placed on the stairs,as in the photo. The barn was used as a ballroom, but it has since been demolished. Today one can still visit the mill (with its waterwheel), the guard’s room, the dovecote, and the kitchen.

More links about this topic:

First Image from the Guide Book: Marie-Antoinette’s Estate

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Manchester Art Gallery features Dressing Up, Dressing Down on its website. Check out this virtual exhibit of late 18th century dress online. Jane Austen would have been quite familiar with these gowns during her childhood.

Norwich Textiles offers a beautiful site with a history of its lush fabrics. Click here to read about the manufacture of its 19th century fabrics, including the Norwich Shawl, so popular during the regency era.

If you are privileged to own vintage clothing, this excellent article tells you how to store the items properly. Click here.

Image: Manchester Art Gallery

Also read: Fabrics in the Regency Era

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July 18th (today) marks the anniversary day of Jane Austen’s death in a rented house in College Street, Winchester. Her life was all too short (December 16, 1775 – July 18, 1817), and her output all too meager for those who wish she had written more novels. This post consists of a series of recollections of Jane’s last days from her, her family, and her biographers:

During her illness, Jane wrote:

“I live chiefly on the sofa, but am allowed to walk from one room to the other. I have been out once in a sedan-chair, and am to repeat it and be promoted to a wheeled chair as the weather serves.”

“On this subject I will only say further that my dearest sister, my tender watchful, indefatigable nurse has not been made ill by her exertions. As to what I owe to her, and to the anxious affection of all my beloved family on this occasion, I can only cry over it, and pray to God to bless them more and more.” 

Her brother Henry wrote that “she supported, during two months, all the varying pain, irksomeness, and tedium,” attendant on her decline “with more than resignation, with a truly elastic cheerfulness.” “She retained,” he says, “her faculties, her memory, her fancy, her temper, and her affections, warm, clear, and unimpaired, to the last . . . . She expired on Friday, July 18 (1817), in the arms of her sister.”

We have followed Miss Austen to Winchester, and have visited the house in College Street where she passed the last weeks of her life. College Street is a narrow picturesque lane, with small old-fashioned houses on one side, terminating in the ancient stone buildings of the College. The garden ground on the opposite side of the street belonged, and still belongs, to the head master. We have entered the “neat little drawing-room with a bow window” which remains unchanged. It is a pretty quaint parlour, with a low ceiling and a narrow doorway. Its white muslin curtains and pots of gay flowers on the window sill lent a cheerful air to the room. We almost fancied we could see Miss Austen seated in the window writing to her nephew, glancing from time to time across the high-walled garden, with its waving trees, to the old red roofs of the Close, with the great grey Cathedral towering above them.- Constance Hill, Jane Austen, Her Homes and Friends

The parlour in College Street

Of her last days, her brother Henry wrote in the introduction of Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, published posthumously:

But the symptoms of a decay, deep and incurable, began to shew themselves in the commencement of 1816. Her decline was at first deceitfully slow; and until the spring of this present year, those who knew their happiness to be involved in her existence could not endure to despair. But in the month of May, 1817, it was found advisable that she should be removed to Winchester for the benefit of constant medical aid, which none even then dared to hope would be permanently beneficial. She supported, during two months, all the varying pain, irksomeness, and tedium, attendant on decaying nature, with more than resignation, with a truly elastic cheerfulness. She retained her faculties, her memory, her fancy, her temper, and her affections, warm, clear, and unimpaired, to the last. Neither her love of God, nor of her fellow creatures flagged for a moment. She made a point of receiving the sacrament before excessive bodily weakness might have rendered her perception unequal to her wishes. She wrote whilst she could hold a pen, and with a pencil when a pen was become too laborious. The day preceding her death she composed some stanzas replete with fancy and vigour. Her last voluntary speech conveyed thanks to her medical attendant; and to the final question asked of her, purporting to know her wants, she replied, “I want nothing but death.”

Jane’s last poem written July 15th:

When Winchester Races

When Winchester races first took their beginning
It is said the good people forgot their old Saint
Not applying at all for the leave of Saint Swithin
And that William of Wykeham’s approval was faint.

The races however were fixed and determined
The company came and the Weather was charming
The Lords and the Ladies were satine’d and ermined
And nobody saw any future alarming.–

But when the old Saint was informed of these doings
He made but one Spring from his Shrine to the Roof
Of the Palace which now lies so sadly in ruins
And then he addressed them all standing aloof.

‘Oh! subjects rebellious! Oh Venta depraved
When once we are buried you think we are gone
But behold me immortal! By vice you’re enslaved
You have sinned and must suffer, ten farther he said

These races and revels and dissolute measures
With which you’re debasing a neighboring Plain
Let them stand–You shall meet with your curse in your pleasures
Set off for your course, I’ll pursue with my rain.

Ye cannot but know my command o’er July
Henceforward I’ll triumph in shewing my powers
Shift your race as you will it shall never be dry
The curse upon Venta is July in showers–‘.

About Jane’s funeral, David Nokes writes in Jane Austen: A Life:

The funeral took place on the morning of Thursday 24 July at Winchester Cathedral. “It is a satisfaction to me,’ Cassandra wrote to Fanny, that her sister’s dear remains were ‘to lie in a building she admired so much – her precious soul I presume to hope reposes in a far superior mansion.’ Only three of the brothers – Edward, Henry and Frank – were present at this ‘last sad ceremony’. Charles, at Easbourne, was too far away to attend; James, too, stayed away. ‘In the sad state of his own health and nerves,’ he said, ‘the trial would be too much for him.’ Women were not expected to attend such melancholy ceremonies; their grief, it was thought, might overcome them. The funeral was held in the early morning; it ‘must be over before ten o’clock,’ Cassandra told Fanny, ‘as the Cathedral service begins at that hour’. Before the coffin was closed, she cut off several lock of Jane’s hair as family mementoes. ‘Everything was conducted with the greatest tranquility,’ she wrote. She and Martha Lloyd ‘watched the little mournful procession the length of the street & when it turned from my sight I had lost her for ever.’ (p. 521)

More about Jane’s last days:

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The reissue of the Oxford World’s Classic Northanger Abbey includes Jane Austen’s lesser known works: Lady Susan, The Watsons (a fragment), and Sanditon (Jane’s unfinished last work). As with Pride and Prejudice, this new publication comes with an introduction (excellently written by Claudia L. Johnson, but included in a previous edition) and a wealth of resources in the form of explanatory notes, source bibliography, and appendix. So much has been written about Northanger Abbey by experts whose knowledge of that excellent work eclipse mine, that I will concentrate on one of Jane’s more fascinating but lesser known earlier works, Lady Susan. This book was written around 1793-1794 (there are several date estimates) but it was not published until 1871 in Edward Austen-Leigh’s A Memoir of Jane Austen, almost a half century after Jane Austen’s death. While Jane recopied the book she did not revise it; it was evidently never meant for publication.

Author Joe Queenan included Lady Susan in his 2004 volume, The Malcontents: The Best Bitter, Cynical, and Satirical Writing in the World, Explaining why he chose this short work for his book, he writes:

Why did I choose Jane Austen’s less famous and somewhat atypical Lady Susan rather than an excerpt from Sense and Sensiblility, Emma, or Pride and Prejudice? Because as much as possible I wanted to use complete works rather than fragments, and because this little jewel is unbelievably vicious. Also , it is a superb example of the novel composed entirely of letters, and one can never have too many of those in a collection. – p 22.

If you have not read Lady Susan before, be prepared to encounter an anti-Jane heroine; a beautiful, manipulative, calculating, and self-indulgent widow; a woman so cold-hearted in her machinations that she puts her own interests ahead of her daughter’s, or anyone else’s for that matter. Having become accustomed to the innate goodness of Jane’s heroines, I had to read the following passage twice before I fully understood that Lady Susan was made of different stuff than Elizabeth Bennet or Anne Elliot:

I have been called an unkind mother, but it was the sacred impulse of maternal affection, it was the advantage of my daughter that led me on; and if that daughter were not the greatest simpleton on earth, I might have been rewarded for my exertions as I ought.

Sir James did make proposals to me for Frederica; but Frederica, who was born to be the torment of my life, chose to set herself so violently against the match that I thought it better to lay aside the scheme for the present. I have more than once repented that I did not marry him myself; and were he but one degree less contemptibly weak I certainly should: but I must own myself rather romantic in that respect, and that riches only will not satisfy me.

In this short passage Lady Susan reveals her true thoughts to her friend, Alicia Johnson, an equally cool and calculating character.  Lady Susan pretends to be a loving mother and friend, but her frank words belie her actions, and she clearly exults in her talent for manipulating a situation (or man) to suit her needs. She lies without compunction to her sister-in-law, Catherine, a woman she disliked so intensely that she tried to prevent her marriage to her brother. Catherine, no simpering fool, mistrusts her unwanted house guest, and in most situations sees right through her.

The cat and mouse games played by the main characters set up the emotional tension in this novel. Lady Susan believes she is fooling everyone, although she is not. Her brash plans quickly unravel as her equally savvy opponents outmaneuver her, but before her downfall, she collects victims along the way, in particular Mrs. Mainwaring, whose marriage is destroyed by Lady Susan’s flirtation with her husband. Reginald de Courcy, Catherine’s brother, arrives on the scene full of mistrust and dislike for the non-grieving widow. Lady Susan effortlessly wraps him around her little finger until he learns the truth about her.  In the end she marries Sir James, the young and foolish but rich young man she had chosen for her daughter.

As Jay Arnold Levine pointed out in ‘Lady Susan: Jane Austen’s Character of the Merry Widow, Lady Susan is reminiscent of the lascivious and hypocritical widows written about in 18th century Restoration literature, like Fielding’s Lady Booby and Tom Jones‘ Lady Bellaston.  “Dangerously endowed with experience and independence”, Lady Susan “must be regarded as the culmination of the earlier phase of literary burlesque.”

Susan Anthony’s point of view differs from Mr. Levine’s, although it is not incompatible with it. In ‘The Perfect Model of a Woman': Femininity and Power in Lady Susan, she writes:

Imperceptibly, we are drawn into this sparser imaginative world. We become alert to the cross-play of purposes, aware of suspect motivation, hidden agendas, and the deceptiveness of Language. Lady Susan gradually exposes the politics of family life and the machinations of women in a conservative, restrictive, and male-dominated society, founded on inherited wealth and policed by gossip: the option of ‘the world.’…Lady Susan makes apparent that money, power, and the freedom to act independently are the prerogatives of men. For a woman, even wealth cannot empower: it serves simply to license any fortune-hunter she is foolish enough to marry.

Jane’s epistolary novel is a remarkable and sophisticated achievement for a budding 20-year-old author. There are faults to be sure (Claudia Johnson calls Lady Susan’s world “cartoonish”), and the ending is abrupt and switches from the first-person letter to the third-person narrative, but one cannot mistake Jane Austen’s genius in telling this tale of a woman who “has the power to inflame” but not the power to direct her life. The book ends unhappily for our protagonist. As Susan Anthony observes, “Disappointment of a bad husband is Lady Susan’s fitting punishment,” but before that denouement, the reader has been taken on a splendid literary ride.

More Links:

  • ‘Lady Susan: Jane Austen’s Character of the Merry Widow’, Jay Arnold Levine, Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol 1, No. 4, Nineteenth Century. (Autumn, 1961), pp. 23-34.

Image: Henrietta Howard, Countess of Suffold, Mistress of George II, painted by Charles Jervas

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I had always wondered about this hot bath scene in 1986’s Northanger Abbey (click on the link to watch a 2-minute YouTube video) and how accurate it was. I was particularly curious to know if men and women truly mingled in the hot baths, and what kind of items were placed on the floating objects that the bathers held. While Jane Austen did not write this scene in her novel, the scene in the film lent a note of authenticity to Catherine Morland’s visit to Bath.

In Aristocrats, Stella Tillyard writes a full description of  these 18th century bathers:

In the eighteenth century pride of place went to the Pump Room, where warm mineral water was sold by the glass, and the King’s Bath. This giant communal cistern was right under the windows of the Pump Room, open to the gaze of all. Patients sat in the bath with hot water right up to their necks. Men were enveloped in brown linen suits. Women wore petticoats and jackets of the same material. They sat side by side in a hot, faintly sulphurous mist.

Limp cotton handkerchiefs caught the sweat which dribbled down the bathers’ faces; afterwards they were tucked away in the brims of patients’ hats. Lightweight bowls of copper floated perilously on the water. Inside them vials of oil and sweet smelling pomanders bobbed up and down. On a cold morning the bathers in their caps and hats looked to the curious onlookers pressed against the glass above them like perspiring mushrooms rising into the thick gaseous air (p 35-36).


More links:

Image and two details: Cruikshank, Public Bathing in Bath or Stewing Alive, 1825

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The Duke of Wellington, the much decorated general who defeated Napoleon twice and who, to many in the era, defined the British character, still had to answer a flurry of petty questions generated by bureaucrats in London. The following is a letter he wrote to the National Office in 1812 in response to some trifling expenses for which he was held accounted:

Gentlemen,

Whilst marching from Portugal to a position which commands the approach to Madrid and the French forces, my officers have been diligently complying with your requests which have been sent by H.M. ship from London to Lisbon and thence by dispatch to our headquarters.

We have enumerated our saddles, bridles, tents and tent poles, and all manner of sundry items for which His Majesty’s Government holds me accountable. I have dispatched reports on the character, wit, and spleen of every officer. Each item and every farthing has been accounted for, with two regrettable exceptions for which I beg your indulgence.

Unfortunately the sum of one shilling and ninepence remains unaccounted for in one infantry battalion’s petty cash and there has been a hideous confusion as the the number of jars of raspberry jam issued to one cavalry regiment during a sandstorm in western Spain. This reprehensible carelessness may be related to the pressure of circumstance, since we are war with France, a fact which may come as a bit of a surprise to you gentlemen in Whitehall.

This brings me to my present purpose, which is to request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty’s Government so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue either one with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both:

1. To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys in London or perchance.

2. To see to it that the forces of Napoleon are driven out of Spain.

Your most obedient servant,

Wellington

Update: While I try to link to resources directly (see link list below), at times I can find no attributions or a source. I found this letter on a fun fact site and had no initial reference to point to. If you will note, this blog largely consists of a series of links to other sites of interest, especially in the pages at top. In addition, as with David Brass Rare Books, I receive their permission to write about their publications and use certain images PROVIDED I make no money off the enterprise and make certain that I mention David Brass Rare Books prominently in my posts. I also try to use e-text quotes and images that are in the public domain (Wikimedia Commons), or to quote no more than a paragraph from books that are copyrighted. Publishers that have asked me to review their books have given me permission to use images of their book covers and use quotes. When I am reviewing a blog post (as in my Seen Over the Ether post), I will use an identifying image from that post.

Other links:

Image: William Heath, A Wellington Boot – or Head of the Army.

Portrait of the Duke by Sir Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), 1814.

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